Saturday, November 3, 2012

Handmade vs Homemade

I recently was involved in a discussion about the perception people have of handmade items.  Some people recognize the time, quality, individuality and uniqueness of handmade items and artwork; while others apparently think it means cheap homemade junk. 

Far too often I see the words handmade and homemade being used synonymously. So what really is the difference between handmade and homemade? Homemade refers to an item that is made at home, while handmade refers to an item that is made by hand. Many items that are homemade are by nature also handmade since most home crafters do not have the machinery to produce the item in any way other than by hand.  Handmade items are simply just that; made by hand.  However, handmade items are not always made in a home, there are factories where many people work making things by hand without the aid of machinery.

There was a time in this country when most women, and some men, made all their clothing, bed coverings and sheets, dish towels and more by hand at home.  This wasn’t done because they had all the time in the world to sit around making things for a hobby.  Most of the people that wore handmade items, did so because they couldn’t afford the store bought things, thus having to make their own at home.

Many people in my generation grew up with a grandmother or two that fell into that category of having to make every stitch of clothing their kids wore.  As their kids got older and moved away they could then turn to making nicer things for the home, and even though the items moved from being a necessity to being a decoration they still carried that ‘homemade’ connotation.

An item classified as handmade often carries with it the association of an item that is carefully hand crafted by an artisan with such care that its quality and style surpasses a machine made item of the same type.  While an item classified as homemade usually brings to mind amateur, low quality work and materials. 

This way of thinking was brought on, like I mentioned above, back when people that had very little money had to make their things at home.  It didn’t mean that their workmanship was always of poor quality, but that maybe the materials they could afford were of a lessor quality than store bought items.

I have been crocheting for over 30 years, I learned my very first stitches at the age of 7 and for the next two years each of my grandmothers worked very hard teaching me.  Not only were they teaching me stitches, but they also taught me how to choose my yarns and how to design patterns, while I taught them patience.  Neither of them taught me to read crochet patterns and for many years I just made things up as I went along.

My grandmothers did not teach me a sub-standard way to prevent getting cold in the winter by making a blanket the cheapest, fastest way possible.  They both told me how when their kids were growing up they had to make what they could out of whatever material they could get, and both taught me to never slack on quality or to rush through a project.  They told me I was lucky enough to not have to; so do it right and make all my projects with quality stitches and materials and to make each one as if it were my masterpiece.

Although I personally hand make each of my items at home they are not cheaply made with poor quality yarns.  Each item I make has all my years of experience in the art form of crochet itself, plus my years of experience in working with fibers and yarns, designing various items and the perfection that I hold myself to.  My grandmothers would have it no other way!

Because of all the work I’ve put into learning my craft, learning to choose the best materials and the best stitches to work with, I do get a little snobby when someone looks at my work and describes it as ‘just homemade’.  It is the perception that the word homemade brings with it that raises my hackles.

In the course of the discussion that prompted this post, another woman stated that she has been told things like “I could just get my grandma to make that for a whole lot less money than you want for it”.  While that is true in so many cases with things that are handmade, the person making a statement like that has no idea of the time, effort, energy and love that their grandma will put into each and every stitch of the item.  When a person buys a handmade item they need to think about the time spent in making that item and the time the person making it has spent learning to produce an item that far surpasses the quality of anything that can be made by machine.

The next time you are browsing handmade items or have been gifted an item made by someone by hand… think to yourself about the difference between the perception of handmade quality and the word homemade.  Appreciate it!

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